Earlier this week I posted a photo on our facebook page of our cardboard bedding, and it created quite the conversation!
We hear of so many methods for our chicken coop floors. From straw, deep litter and wood shavings, to construction grade sand and just plain dirt. We all find different methods that suit our preferences. However, when I met a new homesteading friend not that long ago, and she introduced me to the wonderful world of cardboard bedding, I was sold.
It was a "mind blown" experience for me. I had never in my life heard of cardboard bedding. Out of all of the chicken professionals I've followed on facebook and through blogs, and farmers I've known through out life, never cardboard bedding. Maybe I just wasn't paying any attention, which is totally possible.
Cardboard bedding (also referred to as horse stall bedding in many places) are thick pieces of cardboard that have been shredded into chips. They come in extra large bags (larger than a wood shaving bag), and 2 large bags will cover my 8x8ft chicken coop. Many farm stores and co-ops carry the bedding, but you must ask for it, as they normally don't have it sitting out.
If done properly, cardboard bedding should only need to be changed every 4-6 months. It also depends on how many chickens you have in your coop. One summer we had over 50 chickens (never again!), and I ended up having to change the bedding every 2 months instead of the longer time frame.
So, here's the scoop.....
Make sure you clean your coop out thoroughly before laying down your cardboard bedding. I always put a layer of Diatomaceous Earth down first to get rid of any lingering bugs and parasites. Allow the coop to air dry out (if there were any wet spots from feces or bedding) for an hour or so before putting your bedding down.
Put your bedding down in a thick layer on your coop floor. You want to make sure it's a few inches deep so that the chickens feces never actually touch your coop floor when it falls to the ground from the roost. You also need room to "stir" the cardboard bedding, so you'll need lots of bedding.
Every morning or once a day before roosting time, take a rake and stir your cardboard bedding all around. This makes the feces that lay on top of the bedding dry out quicker and detracts flies and other unwanted bugs. You are basically composting inside of your chicken coop.
On extra hot summer days, it might need a boost of Sweet PDZ. However, if you're doing it properly, your coop will most likely never "stink". If you do need to add sweet PDZ, just sprinkle a thin layer over the entire surface of the cardboard bedding. Sweet PDZ is a natural deodorizer and can actually help in the breaking down process.
Your bedding should never be wet or heavy. If maintained properly, it should remain light and dry the entire time. If it becomes wet for whatever reason, change it immediately.
This bedding should last 4-6 months with a small to medium sized flock of chickens. For a flock of 25+ chickens, you may find that you change it more often, depending on your location and preferences. When it comes time to put down new bedding, simply rake out the old bedding (it should nevefr be wet or heavy enough for a shovel) and use it in your compost or worm bins.
Cardboard bedding is a completely natural option for your coop floor, and honestly, it's even much cleaner and easier to tend to than the deep litter and sand methods. Chickens cannot ingest the large pieces of cardboard. They will try to peck at it but lose interest after the first hour. Since the bedding is so light, many times the chickens will stir the bedding for you through out the day, which is a nice bonus.
However, my biggest love about this bedding is that my chickens love it. We saw quite the health improvement versus straw and other dusty beddings. Whenever we put down new straw or wood shavings, the chickens often have irritated sinuses. But not with cardboard bedding.There is no dust or pollen in the cardboard bedding, which is also a wonderful option for me since it allows me to put down bedding without wearing a mask and while also taking unnecessary allergy medicines.
Overall, it is the healthiest option for our chickens, and we will now be using it all year long rather than just the summer months.I wanted to share this option with you, as it is not widely spoken about. I certainly am so thrilled that someone introduced me to cardboard bedding - because I'll never go back to the other!
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